WAILUKU, Hawaii — A brush fire prompted evacuations and diverted flights on the Hawaii island of Maui, officials said Thursday.
Highways have since been reopened and the Kahului Airport is now operating normally.
NEWS1130 spoke with Malika Dudley of Maui Now Thursday evening.
“This land is pretty dry and parched,” she says. “So we know now, that if we see a fire in that areas it’s not good.”
When the fire, which started this Thursday morning, was not under control several hours later she got worried.
“We started to smell smoke all the way up on the other mountain, which is alarming,” she says.
She says thousands of people are affected and the brush fire is not contained.
“The wind was blowing the smoke out toward south Maui and off shore. Then the wind started swirling around and it basically got to the point where I couldn’t see the mountain anymore. In fact, we just left our home because the smoke is so bad in our area, which is really nowhere near the fire,” she says.
Dudley says she heard from friends whose children were stranded at school earlier today because the roads were closed.
“The large majority of people are just stuck,” she says. “They’re having to grab whatever they can fit into a bag and move to whoever will take them.”
Dudley says spotty phone and internet service have made it difficult to make plans with family and loved ones in the midst of a disaster she says came as a “shock.”
An evacuation notice was sent to the cellphones of residents in the town of Maalaea and in parts of Kihei, a Maui County official said. The county has opened shelters in Wailuku and Kihei.
Access in and out of Kihei on Maui was blocked as of 3:15 p.m. local time, The Maui News reported .
Flights to the island’s main airport in Kahului were diverted because the fire was affecting access to the facility, the state Department of Transportation said on Twitter.
Hawaiian Airlines said its flights were operating as scheduled, but spokesman Alex Da Silva said the airline was urging passengers to check the status of their flights because the situation was evolving.
Officials say the fire started along Kuihelani Highway, which runs between Kahului and Maalaea, Thursday morning.
Information from: The Maui News, http://www.mauinews.com